Fortress Press

The Structure of Romans: The Argument of Paul's Letter

The Structure of Romans

The Argument of Paul's Letter

Paul B. Fowler (Author)


  • In stock
  • eBook coming soon

We increasingly recognize that Paul did not write his letter to the Romans primarily out of doctrinal concerns. Paul B. Fowler presses that insight home in this attentive, yet eminently readable, study of the letter's structure.

The principles of Fowler's reading are that rhetorical questions in Romans 3‒11 structure the argument, not as responses to criticism but as Paul's careful guiding of the reader, and that these chapters, like the paraenesis in Romans 12‒15, address specific circumstances in Rome. Careful attention to the rhetorical structure of the letter points to tensions between Jew and Gentile that aggravate the already precarious situation of the Roman congregation. In the course of his argument, Fowler explodes the common conceptions that Paul employs diatribal technique to answer objections and that he is primarily engaged in a debate with Jews.

In short, Fowler demonstrates that the apostle is not writing defensively, but responding with sensitivity to the volatile atmosphere caused by Claudius's expulsion of some Jews from Rome. The book includes an appendix on rhetorical devices and another on epistolary formulas in Paul's letters.

  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506416182
  • eBook ISBN 9781506416199
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 228
  • Publication Date July 1, 2016


1. Assumptions of This Study
2. The Structure of Romans
3. The Rhetoric of Romans
4. The Surface Structure of Romans
5. Issues to Be Resolved
6. The Circumstances of Romans
7. The Coherence of Romans


"This is a carefully considered treatment of the composition of Romans, always with an eye on the basic content of the letter and the circumstances of the church in Rome. It provides a balanced discussion of the rhetorical and literary features of the letter while reigning in some of the undue emphasis on diatribe that has characterized recent studies of the letter. This is an important work; highly recommended."

David K. Lowery | Dallas Theological Seminary

"Why are there so many rhetorical questions in Romans? Scholars have long puzzled over this feature of the letter, often recognizing its importance but failing to offer a persuasive explanation for it. Paul Fowler makes a convincing case that the preponderance of rhetorical questions in Romans is not incidental to the letter's argument but rather serve to advance it. Fowler furthermore shows that Paul's purposes in adopting this rhetorical strategy are primarily pastoral not polemical in nature. Combining the virtues of accessibility and scholarly integrity, The Structure of Romans is a must-read for anyone who wishes better to understand the structure and coherence of this letter and to grasp some of the momentous issues in the life of this congregation that gripped the mind of the apostle Paul."

Guy Prentiss Waters | Reformed Theological Seminary

"Many scholars today recognize that Romans, as much as any of Paul's letters, is driven by an intensely practical interest, especially the relationship of Jewish and Gentile Christians. Taking the series of rhetorical questions in Romans as a decisive indicator, Fowler here convincingly argues that the entire letter, in its very structure, is oriented toward this practical interest. Thus the faith-relationship between God and his diverse people is inextricably bound up with that people’s life together in Christ. It is a message the church needs to hear today as much as ever."

Dan McCartney | Redeemer Theological Seminary